Izaak Walton League heritage continues locally

IZAAK WALTON lived a long time ago. However, his writings and his vision for assemblies of like-minded people to care for the land carry on today just as strong as ever. The passion that drove Izaak Walton was fishing. In fact, his dedication to his chosen sport induced him and his close friend Charles Cotton to write a book, “The Compleat Angler” his fifth and final version, that was published in 1676. It has been used as a reference ever since to help guide people to look at the big picture for care of natural resources. Walton wanted everyone to get to know the land in such a way as to be able to live in harmony with nature. It was and still is a noble cause.

Walton grew up in England. He learned to fish using a fly rod. And the nature of that style of fishing required close attention to insects and other natural animal life that lived in, on and above the flowing trout streams of the English countryside. By carefully recreating lures disguised to look like living insects, he would coax trout out of rock lined hiding holes to bite the hook. However the turbulent times politically that existed in England at his time was anything close to harmony. To get his head thinking clearly, Walton went fishing. During those times he could thoughtfully process his solutions to life. Fishing can do that precisely because the quiet times near the water are relaxing. With no distractions, he made mental notes that found their way to his journal. Pages of the journal subsequently formed the foundation for his book.

Fast forward to the early United States of America. Some of the many new settlers to the eastern seaboard also brought with them an understanding of what Izaak Walton had talked about in England. America was different in many ways with its rich and abundant natural resources. Early life and survival in America was not easy. Natural resources took a back seat to scratching out a living. There remained an undertone within the people that natural resources could be overused, over exploited, mismanaged or otherwise squandered. Izaak Walton’s book became an important element in those early attempts to find a balance that man and nature could agree to. It was a modest beginning. It was an important beginning for conservation efforts in America.

Izaak Walton growth in the United States began in Chicago in the 1920s. A number of sportsmen, conservationist and policy makers wanted to make a difference. They saw widespread misuse of natural resources. They wanted to change the public thinking about the distinct possibility of exhausting resources before a plan of action was in place to wisely address use in a sustainable way. That vision worked. In fact, the Izaak Walton League helped to create in its own way other future conservation, hunting and fishing organizations. All of these organizations saw the wisdom of what Walton addressed in his writings.

Fast forward to 2014. Nationally there are about 40,000 Izaak Walton League members in the USA. They may be small as a national organization, but they have influence with the highest of policymakers in Washington D.C. Ikes leadership finds a place at the table in many negotiations and discussions concerning clean air, clean water and conserved soil. Iowa is just one state with a good number of local Ikes chapters. Marshall County is one of them. Their heritage for long term conservation efforts carries on.

The local chapter of the Ikes have ownership to 82 acres of land located two miles south of Marshalltown. Throughout its rolling hills, former Ikes members built a shelter house/club house. A pond was built. Trees were planted. Prairie grasses were planted. Shooting ranges were built, enhanced and still thrive today. Membership is required to use the land and its facilities. Member benefits include access to those 82 acres for hiking, fishing, picnicking and range use. Popular uses are the rifle range with its 25, 50 and 100 yard target distances. Shotgun ranges are available for trap, periodic sporting clay shoots and target practice. The clubhouse can be rented for activities such as reunions, weddings or other gatherings for a fee. Christmas trees are grown for eventual sale in December. And the archery course has just been re-established with a twenty target 3-D type course. Archers wanting to test their skills can focus on foam targets is natural settings for deer, raccoon, bear, javelina, wild boar, fallow deer, coyote or wolf. The archery course starts at the north end of the pond and routes the archer counter-clockwise around the pond to end near the clubhouse.

The Ikes grounds has also been the setting for decades of past youth hunter education classes sponsored by the Iowa DNR. Youth must attend and pass a hunter education class to enable them to purchase a hunting license when they turn age 16. Once per year (early September) a field day for International Bowhunter Education Foundation classes are hosted at the Ikes grounds. The Ikes target archery range serves as the annual re-qualifying of bowhunters who want to participate in urban deer hunts.

For more information on membership requirements to the Ikes, an application is available from club board members. Or one can call Ed Moore at 751-8381, Bob Backes at 752-1355, Ruth Dolash 751-1121, or Dick Kelly 482-3000. Annual regular dues are $75 per year for a local family (mom, dad and the kids). For $90 you can also include National Ikes Family membership. Student rates are $40 per year for persons under age 21. If one wants to join the Ikes this summer for the first time, reduced half-year rates apply. An application for membership can also be requested by writing to Izaak Walton League, PO Box 327, Marshalltown, IA 50158. The local Ikes also have a facebook connection to learn more about this fine organization.

SHOOTING SPORTS for firearms is big business. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s report “Hunting in America” and “Target Shooting in America,” a broad impact is very evident by those who purchase products related to their shooting interests. The economic impact to the US economy by men and women who shoot firearms totals approximately $110 billion annually. “America’s hunters and target shooters create one giant economic engine whose hum can be felt throughout our country and by businesses of all sizes,” said Elizabeth Karasmeighan, National Shooting Sports Foundation Director of Legislative and Policy Research.

More than 866,000 jobs are supported by hunting and target shooting. That number would rank it as the 7th largest employer in the world, ahead of IBM, or McDonald’s. And the $148 billion in retail sales exceed those of Fortune 100 Companies like Coca-Cola, Federal Express or Disney. How many law abiding recreational shooters are there in the USA for rifles, handguns, shotguns or muzzleloaders? Answer: 33.8 million people. Nationally shooting sports generate $15.2 billion in taxes.

Iowa statistics show the estimated target shooters numbering 155,312. They spend the equivalent of 2,849,192 days at their chosen target shooting sport. Eighty 2 percent of the expenses related to target shooting are equipment. The balance of 18 percent is travel to and from ranges, shooting matches, or local events. Iowa retail sales for all types of target shooting tabs in at $76,357,435. The multiplier effect of those purchases brings the total to $114,881,781 that in turn supports 1,265 jobs with salaries and wages paid out of $38,151,268.

The next time you go plinking at targets with a .22 rifle, you might want to know how your contribution, small as it is, helps overall shooting sports activities. Have fun. Be safe. Enjoy a shooting sport.

Nature: Cheaper than therapy.

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.